East Asian herb eleuthero is suggested to enhance exercise endurance, but research evidence is conflicting.
- Reducing fatigue. Eleuthero may be capable of enhancing endurance exercise performance by staving off fatigue, but research is mixed.
- Boosting immunity. Eleuthero may fortify the immune system, which can become weakened during intense workouts.
Eleuthero (Eleutherococcus senticosus) is a woody shrub indigenous to the mountainous regions of southeastern Russia, northern China, Korea, and Japan. It was nicknamed Siberian ginseng due to having similar adaptogenic properties to Asian ginseng (Panax ginseng), despite maintaining no actual relation.1
Traditional Chinese and Russian medical practices have incorporated eleuthero into treatments for fevers, ulcers, fatigue, arthritis, and many other maladies. It is also purported to possess a number of physical and mental performance benefits, namely:2
Collectively, these effects have led to the inclusion of eleuthero into pre-workout formulas, particularly as a way to elevate endurance during exercise.
How Eleuthero Might Help Pre-Workout Formulas
Blocking the activation of fatigue stimuli
Eleuthero may be able to increase exercise tolerance by inhibiting the synthesis of both the neurotransmitter serotonin (5-HT) and tryptophan hydroxylase (TPH) in the brain.3 5-HT and TPH are believed to activate fatigue stimuli in the brain according to the central fatigue hypothesis.
Decreasing muscle damage
Eleuthero was also found to impart an anti fatigue effect by diminishing damage to muscles based on its ability to delay the accumulation of blood urea nitrogen (BUN) and limit the increase of triglyceride and lactic acid levels, all of which are consequences of exercise.4
Eleuthero’s Potential Pre-Workout Benefits & Uses
Eleuthero is sometimes used to enhance exercise performance, either by itself or as an ingredient in a pre-workout product. More specifically, it is believed to enhance stamina, allowing you to workout longer before reaching exhaustion. Despite this, scientific evidence is inconclusive; the current stance of medical researchers is that eleuthero supplementation “offers no advantage during exercise ranging in duration from 6 to 120 min.” 5
In addition, eleuthero is also taken to enhance immune system function, which can be weakened by intense exercise. Scientific evidence is more supportive of this use of eleuthero.
Research indicates that eleuthero can have several benefits relevant to exercise performance:
- Alleviating fatigue. Eleutherosides have demonstrated the capacity to reduce both fatigue in mice.6 7
- Elevating exercise tolerance. Eleuthero was shown to extend swimming time in mice.8
- Boosting immunity. Eleuthero was found to stimulate the humoral immune response in mice.9
Most clinical studies of eleuthero in an exercise context report that it has no physical performance benefits.
In this randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled investigation, 20 trained distance runners were assigned to take placebo or Eleutherococcus senticosus extract (3.4 ml) whle they completed 5 treadmill runs lasting 10 minutes every day for 6 weeks. At the end of the study, no significant differences were noted in heart rate, time to exhaustion, oxygen consumption (VO2), or any other measures.
- The researchers concluded that “the data do not support an ergogenic effect of ESML supplementation on selected metabolic, performance, or psychologic parameters associated with submaximal and maximal aerobic exercise tasks.”10
In this randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled investigation, 9 highly trained men were given 1200 mg of Eleuthero senticosus (ES) or a placebo (P) every day for 7 days before commencing a simulated 10 kilometer cycling trial. No significant differences between the eleuthero and placebo groups were reported.
- The researchers concluded that “ES supplementation does not alter steady-state substrate utilization or 10-km cycling performance time.”11
In this randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled investigation, 10 males were given either a 400 mg placebo or an 800 mg eleuthero extract known as ENDUROX every day for 7 days followed by a 40-min cycling exercise protocol. No significant differences were revealed between the groups in regards to heart rate, blood pressure, lactate levels, oxygen consumption, respiratory exchange ratio, or rating of perceived exertion.
- The researchers concluded that the “findings do not support the ergogenic claims for ENDUROX.”12
In this randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled investigation, nine male university students took either placebo or 800 mg of eleuthero before cycling until exhaustion every day for 8 weeks. Eleuthero supplementation was found to increase fatigue resistance during exercise based on improved peak oxygen usage (+12%) and cycling time (+23%).
- The researchers concluded that “ES supplementation enhances endurance capacity, elevates cardiovascular functions and alters the metabolism for sparing glycogen in recreationally trained males.”13
In this study, 50 adults were given either 25 drops of eleuthero or 40 drops of echinacea 3 times daily for a 30-day period and asked to complete an ergospirometric test. Results showed an improved oxygen plateau, suggesting enhanced physical fitness, and improved lymphocyte and neutrophil activity in the eleuthero group, suggesting enhanced immunity.
- The researchers concluded that “active components in Eleutherococcus senticosus contained in Taiga Wurzel preparation affect cellular defence and physical fitness, as well as lipid metabolism.”14
- According to clinical research, eleuthero is best taken as an extract (800 mg), or as a tincture (25 – 75 drops, up to 10 ml).
- Eleuthero supplements typically come in the form of 400 – 1200 mg capsules.
- Bark or stem extract as a capsule
- Root powder
- Leaf extract in the form of a capsule or tincture standardized to varying percentages of eleutherosides
Supplements in Review Says
- Eleuthero 400 – 1200 mg pre-workout.
We do not recommend taking eleuthero as a workout supplement. Although there are some studies suggesting that eleuthero can enhance endurance exercise performance, most of of the current evidence shows no ergogenic benefit.
Take eleuthero extract capsules at 400 – 1200 mg. If you do want to give eleuthero a try, we suggest doses of 400 – 1200 mg. Whether or not it truly boosts athletic performance, research seems to agree that it is perfectly safe.
- Huang L, et al. Acanthopanax senticosus: review of botany, chemistry and pharmacology. Pharmazie. 2011 Feb;66(2):83-97. ↩
- Deyama T, Nishibe S, et al. Constituents and pharmacological effects of Eucommia and Siberian ginseng. Acta Pharmacol Sin. 2001 Dec;22(12):1057-70. ↩
- Rhim YT, et al. Effect of Acanthopanax senticosus on 5-hydroxytryptamine synthesis and tryptophan hydroxylase expression in the dorsal raphe of exercised rats. J Ethnopharmacol. 2007 Oct 8;114(1):38-43. ↩
- Huang LZ, et al. Antifatigue activity of the liposoluble fraction from Acanthopanax senticosus. Phytother Res. 2011 Jun;25(6):940-3. ↩
- Goulet ED, et al. Assessment of the effects of eleutherococcus senticosus on endurance performance. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2005 Feb;15(1):75-83. ↩
- Huang LZ, Huang BK, et al. Bioactivity-guided fractionation for anti-fatigue property of Acanthopanax senticosus. J Ethnopharmacol. 2011 Jan 7;133(1):213-9. ↩
- Kimura Y, et al. Effects of various Eleutherococcus senticosus cortex on swimming time, natural killer activity and corticosterone level in forced swimming stressed mice. J Ethnopharmacol. 2004 Dec;95(2-3):447-53. ↩
- Zhang XL, et al. Anti-fatigue activity of extracts of stem bark from Acanthopanax senticosus. Molecules. 2010 Dec 24;16(1):28-37. ↩
- Drozd J. Estimation of humoral activity of Eleutherococcus senticosus. Acta Pol Pharm. 2002 Sep-Oct;59(5):395-401. ↩
- Dowling EA, et al. Effect of Eleutherococcus senticosus on submaximal and maximal exercise performance. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1996 Apr;28(4):482-9. ↩
- Eschbach LF, et al. The effect of siberian ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus) on substrate utilization and performance. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2000 Dec;10(4):444-51. ↩
- Cheuvront SN, et al. Effect of ENDUROX on metabolic responses to submaximal exercise. Int J Sport Nutr. 1999 Dec;9(4):434-42. ↩
- Kuo J, Chen KW, et al. The effect of eight weeks of supplementation with Eleutherococcus senticosus on endurance capacity and metabolism in human. Chin J Physiol. 2010 Apr 30;53(2):105-11. ↩
- Szolomicki J, Samochowiec L, et al. The influence of active components of Eleutherococcus senticosus on cellular defence and physical fitness in man. Phytother Res. 2000 Feb;14(1):30-5. ↩